Just when I thought I’d escaped having to play with dolls, my brother was born. I was six years old and up until that point had been an only child. My mother went back to work soon after he was born. My Grandma Lil’ was put in charge of us. She had raised four kids of her own as well as myself, so when Brian was born she was dead tired of taking car of kids.
When he learned to walk, Brian spent a lot of time in the bathtub at my Grandma’s house. It was a good way to keep him from running away, I suppose. But my Grandma loved him the most and treated him like a Jewish Prince. A Jewish Prince who sat perfectly in a bathtub, I guess. He was clean, but became pretty anti-social with other kids until later on.
We moved to Bayside in 1952. Brian started to branch out a bit. His best friend was Peter. Peter had a brain injury that limited his mobility, but he could throw a ball with my brother pretty well. Brian had a lot of patience and liked Peter.
Many times the neighborhood kids would make fun of Peter. My brother always stood up for him, and of course, I stood up for my brother. And then Diane Russo stood up for me. Diane Russo was 14 years old and built like a Mac truck. She had muscles, a mustache and for whatever reasons liked me. Definitely better than her NOT liking me! You never wanted to cross Diane Russo.
When he was 10, my brother got to go to camp that summer. It was the camp I went to, but this time I was 16 and was a counselor. My mother wanted me to keep an eye on Brian, which I resented, but it ended up being lucky I was there.
One of the camp counselors had a crush on me. His name was Gary. Gary was tall dark and not so handsome. He was OK, but I went for much smarter guys. One day he wanted to impress me, so he asked my brother to go out in a canoe. Brian said yes and out they went. Before long, Brian managed to capsize the boat and swim back to shore.
Later on I asked Brian what happened out there? He said, “I knew that guy just asked me to go out because he wants a date with you! He doesn’t care about spending time with me. What a Jerk!” He was right, but stupid for flipping over a canoe. I was one of the lifeguards, of course, and the last thing I needed was a drowned brother. I knew I’d get blamed.
Brian got more competitive as he got older. Later, he innocently agreed to play chess with my first husband, Elliot. Elliot was very competitive and thought he knew it all, until he met his match. They played about a half hour before it became clear my brother was winning and Elliott had a fit! He stood up, flipped the board in the air and insisted we leave immediately for a date. It was a horrible date, but I loved riding in his father’s white Thunderbird.
Today, Brian is my best friend. Well I have a few best friends, but he’s the one who will always be there for me, and I will be there for him. As long as he remembers I’m the oldest and stays out of canoes.